Tag: Melena

Of Dieulafoy’s Lesion, Diagnoses and Doctors

InUpdate: The current (November 2014) hypothesis among my doctors is that whatever they were called in my past posts — Dieulafoy lesions, Cameron’s erosions, or bleeding ulcers — all these bleeds have their source in the portal hypertension which comes from cirrhosis which is caused by my auto immune system attacking my bile ducts, that is, my primary biliary cirrhosis.

one of my posts last month, At Risk for Esophageal Varices and I Nearly Bleed Out from a Gastric Ulcer: How Weird Is That?, I raised these questions: can a burst esophageal varice adjacent to the cardia be mistaken for a spurting gastric ulcer? Is it really possible to have such an awful gastric ulcer and no abdominal pain?

I’ve since had a follow-up endoscopy, this one by my hepatologist, and will have another in a month’s time when the clips that the GI used in his repair fall off. They obscured the full view of what the hepatologist thinks may have been neither a gastric ulcer nor an esophageal varice but something else altogether: a Dieulafoy’s lesion.

So I was a just little bit right, or not altogether wrong. My gut instinct — that I couldn’t really have a gastric ulcer — may prove right, but I got caught up in the either/or fallacy: either ulcer or varices, never knowing there could be other possibilities, like this thing called Dieulafoy’s lesion.

It isn’t surprising that a Dieulafoy’s lesion could be mistaken for an ulcer, expecially when it is spurting blood.

A Dieulafoy’s lesion is an “uncommon cause of major gastrointestinal bleeding”

caused by an abnormally large-calibre persistent tortuous submucosal artery. . . The artery protrudes through a solitary, tiny mucosal defect (2-5 mm), commonly in the upper part of the stomach. It may rupture spontaneously and lead to massive bleeding. It has been suggested that the thin mucosa overlying a pulsating artery is eroded progressively by the mechanical pressure from the abnormal vessel.

So it isn’t a disease or chronic condition. It’s a mechanical failure.

Dieulafoy’s lesions and gastric ulcers can be fixed the same way. If the fix is the same, does it matter whether the problem is a Dieulafoy’s lesion or an ulcer?

I think it does because if it is a lesion and not an ulcer, I don’t have to take drugs to inhibit the development of ulcers, and I don’t have to avoid aspirin, ibupropen, and a host of other painkillers, or make dietary changes. I don’t have to worry about an ulcer recurring, either.

So why did the GI see one thing and the hepatologist another?

I’m not sure, but I suspect what we have here is another example of the simple fact that some doctors are better than others. I know there are people who don’t question doctors because they assume anyone accepted into medical school and who makes it through the training must be pretty bright. That stands to reason.

And yet. . . have a look at the night sky. All stars are bright, but some are a lot brighter than others. That might bear remembering if you have your doubts about a diagnosis.

Recognizing a Dieulafoy’s lesion depends on “awareness of the condition and experience in endoscopy.” Experience comes with time, but awareness — well, that seems to me what separates the good from the best.

Had the GI considered Dieulafoy’s lesion as an alternative to an ulcer, then I would assume the next step would be to consider what was known about my case and compare it to what is known about these lesions.

Here are some distinguishing characteristics of Dieulafoy’s lesions:

  • The most common presenting symptom is recurrent, often massive, haematemesis associated with melaena (51%).
  • Characteristically, there are no symptoms of dyspepsia, anorexia or abdominal pain.
  • Initial examination may reveal haemodynamic instability, postural hypotension and anaemia. The mean haemoglobin level on admission has been reported to be between 8.4- 9.2 g/dl in various studies. The average transfusion requirement for the initial resuscitation is usually in excess of three and up to 8 units of packed red blood cells.
  • Approximately 75% to 95% of Dieulafoy lesions are found within 6 cm of the gastroesophageal junction, predominantly on the lesser curve.
  • A history of NSAID [nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents/analgesics] or alcohol abuse is usually absent.


Check, check, check, check, check: all true for me.

“She became dizzy and came to the emergency room for further evaluation”

Remember my post before last, Melena, Hematemesis, Hypovolemic Shock — and A Lot of Love? You know, the one about vomiting up great tarry mounds of clotted blood, losing consciousness, and getting oxygen and IVs in the ambulance before it left my driveway?

Well, today I went to hospital to get my medical records from my latest stay.  And here is what my History & Physical report said:

Sunday night the patient found the blood in her stool. The patient had hematemesis this a.m. Patient came to the emergency room.

Now the Consultation Report. It has the same time inaccuracy: my melena [and if I can use the correct terminology, why can’t they?] didn’t occur Sunday night but just a few hours at most prior to my hematemesis. The report goes on to say:

She became dizzy and came to the emergency room for further evaluation.

And now the Discharge Summary, same misinformation regarding melena, then:

On the day of admission, she vomited coffee-ground materials, got dizzy, and came to the emergency room.

Three reports prepared by three different doctors, each wrong about the timeline, and not a whisper in any of the three about what happened before I arrived in the ER.

There are other annoying things, like under General Impressions in the History & Physical, there’s this observation:

 a  trace of blood around the mouth

but not a word about the globs of dried blood in my hair. Never mind.

The biggie, obviously, is where are the narrative and the record of my vitals for the 20 minutes prior to my arrival? Even if it is not the hospital’s responsibility to incorporate these into the record of my stay under their roof, shouldn’t there be some mention of my means of arrival? Isn’t it downright deceptive to write:

She became dizzy and came to the emergency room for further evaluation …

… got dizzy, and came to the emergency room.

These statements are not untrue: I was dizzy before I started vomiting blood and lost consciousness. And I did come to the ER for evaluation. Not untrue, but  nonetheless false.

When I told the Records Clerk something was wrong, she called in a person who I will call the Conciliator. She’s the one who says, oh I’m so sorry this happened dear, but I haven’t a clue why it did, who is responsible, or what can be done. By the way, why did you come to get copies of your records, anyway?

Because they are mine, I replied. Silence. Because they are mine and no one cares about my health more than I do. And I like to know what is going on.

We left it with the Concilitator promising to get back with me in a few days, when she learned something about anything.

We’ll see.

Melena, Hematemesis, Hypovolemic Shock — and A Lot of Love

Gore alert: Medical terms in title refer to situations involving blood, blood, and more blood.

Were mine a glass house, what you would ordinarily see are four people: Mom, Dad, 14-year old Daughter, and 20-year old Son sitting in separate rooms, staring at separate screens. Even holidays aren’t so different; each year they come chugging along with annoying regularity — and I still can’t figure out how to get on board. Orchestrating Hallmark Moments, creating those Special Memories your family will cherish for a lifetime, all that is beyond me. No surprise then that Mother’s Day barely registers on our screens.  But I’ve something better than a lifetime’s stack of cards (and why do people give greeting cards to people they live with, anyway?): my fractured memory of this past Monday afternoon.

Last Saturday night we returned from a 3200-mile+ roadtrip out west, so Sunday I wasn’t surprised to be really tired. Monday wasn’t any better, and I had no appetite but no stomach pains, ate a banana and some soup.  I wasn’t even that surprised when I had the most horrible black diarrhea. I put this down to culinary karma — what did I expect after eating a sausage pizza at a truckstop in rural Arkansas? But Husband was concerned and called to get me a doctor’s appointment. The nurse said I needed to get to the ER, asap. I learned later that this was blood I’d passed, blood mixed with stomach acids: melena.

I resisted. I’d just have to sit there for hours. Besides, I couldn’t even get to the refrigerator and back without having to lie on the floor to rest. Looking back I see how odd it was to think that a reason not to go to the ER. I relented, but told my husband, who needs a total hip replacement, that Son would have to help me to the car.

We hadn’t reached the door when I said I needed to rest, so Husband went to get the air going in the car.

And then I started vomiting up huge black clots of blood. I wasn’t seeing what was going on at this stage, but I was hearing it. Husband called 911 for an ambulance. Dispatcher heard collie barking, said to get him secured. Rascal wouldn’t leave my side, but Daughter and Son together pulled and pushed him out to the backyard. Then both returned and as Husband talked with dispatcher the two of them followed her instructions, keeping me on my side as I continued vomiting up this foul black matter (hematemesis). They told me later I was flailing around, maybe convulsing or seizing, with my eyes wide open but my pupils not right. I certainly wasn’t seeing anything. I remember their stroking me, kissing me, telling me they loved me.

The EMTs and fire truck arrived in minutes. The kids say that the first guys in backed away, until the woman in charge came in and told them it wasn’t trauma (did they think I’d been shot?). Because of the position of our door, deck, and steps, getting a stretcher in wasn’t an option, so they had to haul me out to a gurney placed on the sidewalk. I remember being rolled into a blanket or something. And that’s it, for a while.

Although they worked on me outside, I remember nothing til I was loaded into the ambulance. My guess is I’d lost consciousness, but they started oxygen as soon as they got me out the door so by the time I was in the ambulance I was aware of talk about my blood pressure, getting needles in both arms, hearing the sirens when after 15 minutes or so I was stabilized and we got moving, and I have a few visual memories of the Head EMT and inside the vehicle. I think at some point I must have been between stages 3 and 4 of hypovolemic shock.

In the ER I soon was given two transfusions; later I was to receive two more. I remember the Head EMT telling the nurses they had a very anxious husband pacing in the waiting room who need to be allowed back as soon as possible. Then she was gone.

I became alert enough to be interested in the trauma room. There are posters on the walls telling RN 1, RN 2, RN 3 — up to 6 or 7, I think, exactly what to do and even where to stand relative to the patient’s bed. Someone cut my housedress off, just like on TV ER shows. I complained about the pain the large IV needles were causing me, about being thirsty, about needing to get the blood out of my hair. That was really gross. Even though I couldn’t move my arms I could feel that blood was stuck in my hair, and when I looked at my pillowcase, it was totally red. Not a priority, however.

I ended up having a spurting gastric ulcer repaired via endoscopy, and was home less than 48 hours after the ordeal began.

And what was going on while I was in the ER? Son was cleaning blood off the carpet and Daughter was cleaning everything else in sight.

When I came home, my collie was waiting on the deck in the 102° heat, somehow knowing I was on my way. My bed was made with fresh linens, and Daughter had imposed order on the clutter of the bedside table. She spent a good hour getting all remains of adhesive off my badly bruised arms.

Ever since I got out of the hospital and home with my family, I’ve been uncharacteristically cheerful, bouncing off the walls buoyant.

Of course.